Monday, 28 September 2009

Fabulous Yellow Median Strip Flowering Trees in Darwin

Around September / October each year the median strips are alive with colour............lots of yellow, nothing else.

They are planted along several areas in the northern suburbs of Darwin. The median strips are otherwise, pretty bare. No fancy irrigated grass, no exotic herbaceous plants, no palms! And for about 10 months of the year the trees are very ordinary looking.

The species is a tough tree that could be planted, in difficult conditions, that is not going to fall over in most heavy storms or cyclones. The species actually grows reasonably well in awful, hard lateritic shallow soils. And does not require much irrigation. Would seem to be a fair choice for a major thoroughfare street tree.

When green and not flowering, it looks straggly, daggy and not all that well shaped. But when it flowers it is absolutely fantastic. To see the mass of flowers emerging from a tree in the most awful growing site is something special. It is not a final, spectacular, last gasp at procreation either........they flower every year. Remember Tabebuia argentea - a great tree for tough conditions.

Trower Road, near Casuarina Shopping Centre.........and all the way along Trower Road to the end, near Brinkin is planted with them, and just coming into flower now.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

AFL - Last Saturday in September

Most Australians would recognise the significance of the heading - The AFL Grand Final.

It has come and gone; Geelong the victor over St Kilda, in a very close game in which the lead changed quite a few times, but Geelong was in front when it the end. It was, for me, a non AFL devotee [ really - I could not care much] worth watching. A good close gritty game.

BUT......the big question now..........what do AFL fans do on a Saturday afternoon, or rather between Thursday and Monday, as there are games each day in that period? Is there now time to mow the lawn, fix the car, chat up the wife or girlfriend, or even.........go surfing.

There is life after football.

Friday, 25 September 2009

More Fabulous Local Trees

As a follow up, there are a few more spectacular trees to be seen around Darwin at this time of year. Yes, there are some fabulous looking red poinciana trees, but have a look at this specimen.

Fabulous flowering and a very sweet perfume

Adjacent to the rain tree! Consensus is that the yellow flowered tree is Albizzia lebbeck or Siris tree.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

The Mighty Rain Tree

Musing while walking the dog can lead to putting fingers to the keyboard.

The rain trees around the city are moulting, indeed raining! Yes, huge quantities of faded yellow fluff, the remnant materials around the flower.

Rain trees creep up on you, very slowly. You do not notice the small ones, and there are quite a few around the city in open space areas and parks. But the older ones are memorable...........huge trees, with no doubt a few memories. Many would be well over a hundred years old, with huge towering and widespread crowns that reach out across the roads and paths around the city.

Those along Gardens Road near the city centre are absolutely monstrous trees, surviving I would guess major cyclones in 1897, 1937 and 1974, at least, plus many smaller cyclonic events. They probably date from when the area along what is now Gardens Road was a Chinese vegetable garden back in the mid to late 1800s.

The one that I noticed is a bit more curious, being along the edge of Rapid Creek but obviously a very large tree. Part of the area near Rapid Creek was a Jesuit mission in the late 1800s, and the two trees are both very large and close to a small ephemeral freshwater creek, now not flowing this late in the dry season.

The trees must be old........the area was not used much, not even during WW2, between the Jesuits mission and the establishment of the modern suburb of Rapid Creek in the early 1960s. These trees predate the modern suburb - they are just too big.

But who planted them and when?

I do not mind - we need these large trees for shade, and the mighty rain tree sure provides that, along with a place for the odd bird's nest - in this case a pair of pee wees [see middle photo].

They are also very sturdy, and have survived cyclones - large and small . That is a big plus. Big is what they become, so they need a large space..........but a great tree, and the city is better for their presence.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Singapore F1 Grand Prix - SHAME JOB

What a hoot..............that squeaky clean Singapore, that city state of no smoking, no nothing and with t- Shirts that proclaim some of the "DON'TS" of Singapore should have been the site this time last year at the 2008 Singapore F1 GP of one of the big nasties of the sporting world of 2008.

It has been all over the media in Australia this week and last, caused the sudden resignation of two of the senior racing staff of the Renault F1 Team, provoked much media comment from the luminairies of motor sport...........with Nelson Piquet jnr deliberately crashing his F1 car, under instruction from the now departed team heavies, to allow his fellow Renault team member to win at the 2008 Singapore F1 GP.

They say all publicity is good publicity...........but for a Singapore keen to promote an almost "holier than thou" corporate image, across many disciplines, can it be good for Singapore and the 2009 Grand Prix, this coming weekend?

It is a street race, with many areas of the downtown sections of the main city area either blocked off or with difficult, circuitous access. It happened that I was there the weekend prior to last year's race and have also been there recently. The lights provided for track illumination are fantastic.

Many locals hate the steeets being blocked, and cab drivers are especially robust in their irritation. I think it fair to say that many are less than happy!

Singapore will get publicity, and it is run in the very late afternoon/ early evening local time in Singapore on a Sunday, and Sunday is family shopping day for many Singaporeans, so that timing creates local havoc. Are the two compatible? Local straw polls say no, with many indicating it is just for the tourists, tickets are too expensive for locals, and they would be happy for it to go away. Alternately, they intend to go away for the whole weekend.

But now infamy has struck...........forever to be known as the site where an F1 race was thrown!

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Copulate and Perish

Just a variation on the old catch cry - populate or perish, a familar one to the child of the 60s and 70s.

Trouble is, the new heading is still pretty apt.

A new study has just shown that the cheapest way to lower carbon emissions is ............wait for it..........better contraception. Very plausible really. The more of us there are, the greater are the carbon emissions.

And at $7 per person to extend contraception / family planning to all who want it / need it is cheap compared to us all driving renewable energy fueled electric cars at $131 per person.

Read more . Light hearted entertainment is useful sometimes, even if there is a serious twist in the tail.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

The Power is Underground

Today is a big day for the household...............the power went underground and was energised. I guess the new power line has been under the ground now for about a year, but finishing off the requirements to finally move from the above ground system to undergound has been slow and tedious. All that remains to be seen of the old system at our place is the old above ground connection close to the roof.

There seem to have been so many minor and major problems, including the total reconstruction of the Casuarina sub station that basically exploded about a year ago, and meant a major diversion of resources to fixing that issue, as it impacted on about half of the Darwin population.

The most recent hiccup was the discovery, about three weeks ago, that many of the electrical boards in the household power boxes would have to be changed - why? They were made of, or contained, asbestos. I am not sure it was a big issue.......the meter board just sits there quietly doing its thing, rarely, if ever, being disturbed. At least in changing over the internal power board, we had a new digital smart meter installed, so that was some sort of improvement even if we do not get much benefit yet from that equipment. At least it does easily allow some time dependent charging among other benefits.

The whole process of undergrounding power in our suburb was supposed to be finished a year ago. And it pretty well was, but for lack of resources to finalise the process.

At least now, hopefully, with a new substation at Casuarina [it supplies us] and underground electricity cabling, that some of the wet season / storm season power outages will be significantly reduced. They will not cease..........that is almost too much to expect and 100% time supply is unrealistic here in a region well known for violent thunderstorms. But reliability should be much better.

The big cost benefit comes from power security and safety in the event of a significant storm or cyclone, often resulting in fallen power lines. Hopefully there will be reduced community costs in managing electricity through that type of event.

As for any significant change.............well, probably no. But it does make it a bit easier to grow a garden and not have to worry about the trees in the powerlines though.

As for the telephone...........another story. They were supposed to also be upgraded to an undergound system, but it seems to be still eons away. No one knows, no one can give advice and it seems to have disappeared into the behomoth that is TELSTRA. May a pox be upon them!!! Maybe it is all tied up with the National Broadband Network.........but it is a disgrace in communications, execution and customer treatment. Good old Telstra......and there is no real other option.

I am annoyed that it seems as if the new telephone system will be copper cabling. Fibre to the Premises would have really been nice, and this is becoming more common in new or refurbished developments around Australia. It seems as if Darwin will be treated to a second class system AGAIN.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

QANTAS - The Beginnings

It is 2009. That is 90 years since the England to Australia air race that was to prove whether it was possible to fly between the two regions.

Darwin has a significant memorial to Ross and Keith Smith who crossed the Australian coast as the first plane to make that journey, and Ross Smith Avenue in Darwin is actually the original airstrip used then and for many years afterwards.

As part of the planning around that race, two intrepid Queenslanders left western Queensland in 1919 in a new 1919 model T Ford to drive to Darwin to attempt to plan and locate and develop suitable airstrip sites for the planes to use after they left Darwin. They came up a reasonably direct route via the coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria, and eventually to Darwin.

REMEMBER - no roads then across that track line. It would be a very tough trip!

Yesterday the very same vehicle returned to Darwin along the same route as part of the 90th Anniversary Celebrations around the flight events. More about that later in the year.

After reaching Darwin back in 1919, by a very awful route [ requested by the organisers it seems] without establishing any airstrips, they returned south down the same approximate line of the Cross - Continent Telegraph Line, establishing airstrips at places like Katherine, Daly Waters, Newcastle Waters close to the telegraph line [ it does sound more sensible doesn't it?] then turning east across the Barkly Tablelands into western Queensland. Daly Waters and Newcastle Waters airstrips are still used today, although Daly Waters was upgraded to a significant paved strip for commercial use some years after the initial development, and it remained a major alternate commercial airstrip for many years, as well as serving QANTAS on the early England - Australia air route.

The real outcome of the trip was the establishment in 1920 of Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services...........yes, QANTAS. These commissioned land adventurers, both who saw service as pilots in WW1, saw an opportunity to capitalise on the air race and the now small, established airstrips to develop an airline to serve the region. It has gone on to bigger things.

There was a small commemoration event on 8 September at the Qantas Hangar in Parap, on the site of the original Qantas location in the NT, adjacent to the original airstrip.

The old car apparently went well on the same journey 90 years later. No doubt there will be signifiant media coverage of this part of the whole exercise, and the air race itself.

Darwin has had a very major part in the development of aviation in Australia, even you could say communications, as it was also the prime repeater location on the England - Australia telegraph route.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Higher Internet Speeds Coming-------maybe soon

Australia’s $31 billion National Broadband Network (NBN), a project announced by the Federal Government earlier this year, will catapult the country from 21st to 8th place on the world’s most fibre broadband-enabled countries worldwide by 2013, according to analyst Strategy Analytics. The government-backed Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) based solution aims to deliver 100 Mbps service to 90 percent of Australian households, schools and businesses over the next eight years.

“The future of broadband is clearly in fibre,” says analyst Ben Piper, a director at the company.

“The existing Telco xDSL infrastructure is reaching the end of its useful life. Soon it will no longer be able to support increasingly bandwidth-heavy consumer applications.”

Rankings just released by Strategy Analytics show that eight of the world’s top ten most fibre broadband-enabled countries are Asian and Eastern European. At the end of 2009, 51 percent of South Korean households will have a fibre connection, making it the most fibre-connected country worldwide. Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Lithuania round out the current top five in the firm’s rankings.

Singapore will overtake South Korea for the number one position by 2013, says the company.
Part of the Singaporean Government’s “iN2015” initiative is the construction of a 1 Gbps FTTP.

Not only will there be high speed fibre internet to the premises, there will be free wireless coverage across most of Singapore. Many areas are covered by wireless already - major shopping centres and many public areas such as public buildings, even some commonly used open space areas such as parks. The high speed internet roll out started a few weeks ago, with finalisation slated for the end of 2012.

Australia is clearly not among the top 5 players, but will be doing ok if the NBN ever gets up momentum and coverage improves.

Singapore is making a major effort to be both wired and unwired. And a new breed of cafe sitters, along with their computers and PDA phones haunt major coffeee shops around the island. Not a bad option when it is 32C outside - and an iced latte is at hand too.

Australia needs to hurry this process of higher connectivity and internet speed or we will be left behind - again. Without this access Australia will not be considered appropriate for a regional finance centre or other businesses that inreasingly rely on electronic communications.

[partially sourced from Electronics News Australia]